MSU Researchers Make Discoveries In Melanoma Treatment

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

"We have so many good options for treatment that we're extremely optimistic that the tide has turned, if you will," said Dr. Brian J. Nickoloff, director of the Nicholas V. Perricone, M.D., Division of Dermatology and Cutaneous Sciences at MSU's College of Human Medicine.

Researchers at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine are making strides in treating melanoma.

It's one of the deadliest and fastest-growing skin cancers, and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women aged 25 to 29 years old. Melanoma kills one person every hour, but doctors say they're finally out-smarting the disease, which has many people hopeful.

"Like most farm boys, I never wore a shirt 'til I was like 35, and now I'm paying for it," farmer Don Neville said.

He's paying for it in the form of skin cancer, so severe that part of his ear needed to be removed because of just a tiny mole.

"So like every four months, I get to go in and get frozen or burned or cut," Neville said.

No matter how painful, those treatments saved Neville's life. Doctors say melanoma used to be a death sentence just five years ago, but their research is changing that prognosis.

"We have so many good options for treatment that we're extremely optimistic that the tide has turned, if you will," said Dr. Brian J. Nickoloff, director of the Nicholas V. Perricone, M.D., Division of Dermatology and Cutaneous Sciences at MSU's College of Human Medicine.

Instead of the old one-size fits all approach, Dr. Nickoloff's team is finding ways to decode each and every tumor.

"Now we've learned that just like each person's unique, each person's tumor has a unique mutation or unique signature of mutation of damage to their chromosomes," Nickoloff said.

With four new FDA approved treatments, and almost 100 others in the works, Dr. Nickoloff is hopeful they could eventually kill all the cancerous cells at once.

"We're trying to find the right drug, for the right patient, and give that at the right time," Nickoloff said. "And that's something we've never had before."

They're not calling it a cure yet, though some people have experienced long remissions. They're finding patients respond, but only temporarily, until the melanoma becomes drug resistant.

"But that extra month or two months or six months or year are meaningful," Nickoloff said. "It also allows us to keep moving forward and thinking of new ways to add to treatments for those patients."

Early detection and prevention are key though. Dr. Nickoloff says even if you don't burn, a tan means you got too much sun. It's not coincidence that farmers are usually wearing hats and long sleeves. Neville speaks from experience.

"If you find any spots at all, no matter how small they are, get them taken care of," Neville said.

Those checks could make all the difference, because Nickoloff said melanoma is absolutely preventable, but sun damage can't be reversed. Just one bad sun burn as a child can dramatically increase someone's chances of developing the deadly cancer.

Everyone should wear sunscreen when they're outside, and avoid long periods of exposure to the sun.

Dr. Nickoloff and the MSU researchers are teamed up with a group in Grand Rapids. They hope to bring clinical trials of new treatments to MSU soon.


WILX.com is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

Keep it clean, keep it civil, keep it truthful, stay on topic, be responsible, share your knowledge, and please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards.

powered by Disqus
WILX 500 American Road Lansing, MI 48911 517-393-0110
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 215752181 - wilx.com/a?a=215752181